Hello everyone! Lots to tell you, and lots for show and tell in this lovely season. But what we need first, besides a cup of tea or a tall glass of something icy (go get it, we are happy to wait until you get back) is summer MUSICA! No problema! Deep breath, ahhhh, we start our mini-vacation right now!

So, how are you? Things are good here! We're trying to leave a bit of white space in our lives these days, unplanned, calendar-free moments, set aside for meandering so we don’t get so busy we miss June. It's been crazy weather, for everyone it seems, from what I'm hearing. Sweltering heat for some of our Girlfriends, but we've had rain, rain, rain, and the Island has never been greener. If this color was a paint color, I would call it "Screaming New England Green." We are lushness personified.

As green and flowery as the real England and for the same reason . . . lots of rain! Which has made our few golden days of sunshine extra special.

Out I go to pick those little gypsy-moth caterpillar eating-machines off my roses, bury banana skins beneath the bushes (because roses love them), see if the new grass seeds are sprouting, listen to the church bells ring from across the street, plant tomatoes and marigolds and smell the lemon thyme in the picket-fence garden, and write it all into my garden diary...

I cut mock orange and wild sweet rocket (so different than store-bought flowers!) to bring in for my little vases on the shelf above my kitchen sink . . . the peonies have been heavenly this year, they just get prettier as they unfurl . . . this one, a gift from a friend, is called ShirleyTemple. Could it be more perfect?

When the rain stopped, I went out to admire the still-dripping lilacs, and the wisteria blowing its sweet fragrance over our kitchen porch, then to the garden to cut chives, and come back in singing, ♫ "Ma nature’s lyrical, with her yearly miracle, Spring, Spring, Spring . . ."♩♪♩

. . . then, quick, get the laundry on the line before the rain comes back . . .

Ahhhh the smell! Sky, clouds, leaves...), and we're always happy when it does rain, saves us from having to drag the hose around ~ we can almost hear our reseeded lawn growing! I go back to the house, stepping on the new flagstones Joe has been laying down.

And there's Jack waiting for me at the window . . . the softest, most pettable, talking-kitty in all the land . . .

When it’s not TOO rainy, Joe and I go for our walk, meandering out the mile-long dirt road with the tiny blue butterflies to see the new leaves unfurling on the trees and smell the earthy, barky, woodsy fragrance of fresh rain in the woods . . .

On our way to the sea for a clean sharp breath of beach roses, salt, and seaweed, and the long cry of the gulls . . . we sit and enjoy the morning breeze and the sound of the waves while we drink coffee on the porch belonging to our friends who live in one of the old fishing shacks on the water . . . We like to call this "exercise."

Between rainstorms, I managed to slip in a tea party/twine outside under the arbor for a going-away girlfriend ~ we talked about gardens and gypsy moths, food, family, travel and dreams, solved all the world’s problems in about a half hour, and fed on each other for inspiration, during one of those sparkly spring days where it never quite made 70 degrees.

Joe and I were away all last spring (out visiting bookstores and so many of YOU), most of the summer, and all of fall (in England and Scotland), so we are staying home now, reveling in this lovely season, feeling just like Jack when I bring him catmint. Rolling in it, so to speak. Rain? What rain? We don't care about no stinkin' rain. It's been a lovely spring.

We light the fire here in Smallville where it's the little things that matter most, make something delicious for din-din, and count our many blessings. Like for instance, I just found out that FilmStruck has finally made it onto Roku, and we have Roku! (Think of Roku as "the library," and inside are "the books," but the books are actually collections of movies without commercials ~ Filmstruck is a "book," just like Netflix is a book.) FilmStruck is a combination of Turner Classic Movies and the Criterion Collection, and we got it all for $99 a year. (I sound like a commercial, but do not even begin to think I get paid for this!) Some of you know what a fanatic I am for old movies, so you probably understand why I'm so excited about this, but if you don't, or if you'd like an idea of where to get started learning about their greatness, go HERE . . . Because, it's just too good, I have to tell you, inquiring minds and all that!

If you get FilmStruck, you can check out titles by entering "old-to-new" ~ and they'll come up in order of the year, beginning in 1917 with silent movies, which includes every Charlie Chaplin movie, just for starters. They are ALL there . . . movies from every country, wonderful actors, renowned directors ~ all the movies I love most, and many I've never heard of (yay), the youngest Ingrid Bergman I've ever seen; charming, hard-to-find Hobson's Choice (which I finally bought, I love it so much). As you scroll down, everything starts out in black and white and then, slowly, as the years go by, color begins to appear ... and you have the history of our world, through lovely, lovely storytellers. And our everyday 2018 life, with so many uncontrollable negatives, slips away, and the past, a magical world as we dream it, filled with truth, goodness, laughter, and grace (if that’s what you choose, and I do), comes alive. Where you can be inspired and cry from happiness every time you turn on the TV.

So while the movies play, I've been on a cleaning kick, and I’ve slowly come to realize that part of the reason I felt so carefree and light-hearted and imaginative when I was 18 is because I didn't own anything! I had one bed, one set of sheets, a dresser, one ivy plant and some old dishes. I didn’t have money, but I had fun, because I had a job, and poor was perfectly fine, because I was happy! I could move in about 3 hours. But things changed over a zillion years of haunting antique stores and searching for treasures. Now we have three four-poster beds, six sets of sheets, seven sets of dishes, and about 1000 books. We could open a restaurant with our glassware and forks alone, a restaurant in a library! Not to mention the messes I've made myself ~ projects and products ~ letters I've saved, albums and diaries I've made, we're at a place where every cupboard and drawer is stuffed to the gills. I can't live like this! Who's in charge here? We've been away so often these last years, either working on books, or traveling, that seemingly suddenly, I have a problem on my hands. This was my studio about a month ago. I can't believe I'm showing this photo on International Willard. Now you know.

“BEFORE” . . .

But this is what it looks like now! I found out who was in charge and taught this place (and me) a lesson I hope we never forget! Smooth workspaces, empty shelves. Love it! (Don't worry, one good project and it will look like a bomb went off in there!) During the studio purge, I took pictures of the harder things to get rid of, bit the bullet, and tossed or donated them. I can't tell you the lightening effect all this cleaning is having on me. Breathing space. A kind of cooling of the house for summer days. Completion of this was truly a Red Letter Day ~ I’m inspired! This is why I could write this Willard! Jack and I had no space to do it before!

I'm going to do the whole house. I got rid of lots of things so far, sending boxes to family members, and recycling usable stuff to the Thrift Shop and the Salvation Army. The books will go to the Tisbury School for their annual book sale. My files are now organized with all the projects I would like to do, books to write, stories to tell, paintings to paint. Which I will start as soon as I can walk around this place without my wings running into things and getting crunched. More books? Must go.

Wut not this one, or any of these old favorites . . . I have my limits.

What else is new? (Mas MUSICA?) Well, our luv-lee, new, "Made in England" bone china mugs came in and sold out almost immediately. Thank you very much! I hope you got one. I'm so proud of them. They're just like cashmere, they are the cashmere of cup-world, just as elegant, just as useful, gorgeous quality, but a lot less expensive.

Iut those first three designs are all gone, so one rainy afternoon, I designed four new ones! We have Autumn, Santa, Martha's Vineyard Isle of Dreams, and Bluebird coming in August, and they are all available for Presale now! Reserve yours ~ they make wonderful gifts so plan ahead for the holidays... because when they're gone, they're gone. And yes, Autumn, as the seasons unfold, will be joined, one-at-a-time, in the next year, by Winter, Spring and Summer . . .

Ind because we pay attention when we read your letters, we've brought back two of your most-requested dream charms! Autumn and A Fine Romance just came in (note the hedgerows?) . . . and we'll have more Be An Elf in time for Christmas.

It's an exciting time because also, at the end of the month, our 2018 calendars will be here ~ the wall calendar, the purse calendar and the large blotter, all on much better paper than last year!

And my newest book is a little gift book with a lovely embossed cover, filled with my favorite quotes, and called (appropriately) Gratitude. It came in about a month ago and it’s already gone in for a third printing!

One more thing . . . Are you going to be on the Island in late July? Well, just in case, I have to tell you what's going on. There's a summer tradition on Martha’s Vineyard that’s been going on since 1979. It’s an auction Joe and I have attended many times ~ but it’s not just any auction, it’s called Possible Dreams ~ you can learn more about it HERE (if you click there, be sure to turn up the volume!). Bidders have an array of amazing experiences to choose from, like no one has ever seen before, things that aren’t for sale anywhere . . . from behind-the-scenes trips to movie studios (with a movie star), to original art by famous painters, a private dinner cooked by a prominent New York chef, a vacation in a gorgeous house in Ireland, a sailboat ride with a famous singer, fishing trips with well-known local fishermen, every imaginable thing, and every year the dreams are all different, and all the money goes to support the Island Community Services. And even if you don’t bid on a single star-studded thing, as you will see if you click above, the party under the white tent is fabulous. Funny, fun, a lovely summer’s-day thing to do. Tickets are $25 and there’s a raffle too. SO, just in cases you are going to be on the Island on Sunday, July 30th, I thought you might like to know . . . because guess who else will have a dream in this year's event? Me!

Here’s what will be written in this year’s Possible Dreams program: "Welcome to the Heart of the Home and an Afternoon with Susan Branch. The lucky bidder for this item, along with three guests, will tour the very clean and highly organized* working studio of author Susan Branch in her 163-year-old whaling captain’s “House of Creativity.” See the writings and art from her handwritten and watercolored books come to life as Susan shares with you what inspired her illustrated diaries and how to create your own. She will cook for you, a seasonal lunch with delicious recipes from her cookbooks ~ the venue will be your choice depending on the time of year: experience a picnic in Susan’s garden, enjoy a kitchen-table tea party, or eat in front of a crackling fire. And today, because Susan is a big believer in the concept of instant gratification, our winner will take home this delightful vintage basket that includes an antique quilt from Susan’s own collection, one of Susan’s collectible bone china cups made in Staffordshire England, her 2018 wall calendar, and signed copies of her books, A Fine Romance, Falling in Love with the English Countryside, Martha’s Vineyard Isle of Dreams, and the 30th Anniversary Edition of her first cookbook, Heart of the Home."

(*Not guaranteed. I added that part in.)

I'll pile all these things in one of my old baskets to give away on the day of the auction. I've been asked if they take phone-in bids, but I haven't heard yet. If you are interested, give them a call and see what they say.

Hpeaking of dreams . . . here's a picture of something taped on my wall right now ~ me and Holly Oak, my first little house on the Island which I wrote about in Martha'sVineyard Isle of Dreams. There is always a dream or two on my wall. I'm pretty sure it helps when I visualize it daily and see it as a done thing in my mind's eye ~ it would be so much fun to fix it up the way it used to be and let people come see it ~ I have so many things that seem to belong there! Like my first painting of the geranium. And my diaries! It could even have a charming gift shop. I've always wanted a charming gift shop! It could be a mini Hill Top. Good little dream, don't you think? And dreams are free! So, it's baby steps, breathing, and visualizing. All the power moves I know.

Here, just for you, is a very different, healthy, crunchy, summer salad with great texture that you can create that goes with everything, delicious with barbecued chicken or ribs, wonderful with plate of grilled veggies, or a big pot of garlicky mussels. It's from my Summer Book, which I'm thrilled to say, will be back in print next spring!

Night-walks through the neighborhood . . .

Always new things in the works Girlfriends, surprises I shouldn’t talk about until they are further along, things I'm saving for the next Willard!

And so once again, I set you free, until next time, I remain, as always, your girlfriend, believing in possibilities, knowing from experience that anything can happen. Honored to be with you today. As Mr. Darcy said to Elizabeth Bennett in the movie Pride and Prejudice, "I la-la-love you" nurturers, joy-spreaders, inspiration-givers, and soul-soothers. Sisters of the heart. The world would be no good without you.

AWhen life seems overwhelming and the negativity starts to get you down, give yourself a mini-break ~ try reading the comments on my blog. I am so touched by them ~ I sit here with my kitty and my tea, read them and cry. You write to let me know that it’s snowing where you are, or it's raining or it's a beautiful day, you plant tomatoes or watermelon or an apple tree, you love your homes, and read to your moms; you find an beautiful old quilt in a second hand store, the turkeys pull your laundry off the line, you're raising three rowdy boys and a husband, you feel transported to England, you hug books, you smell them too, you like Gingerbread tea, and you are from EVERYWHERE. You fairy tale girls smile bravely through new knees, chemo, or dental surgery, loss of parents and petty pets, sending your child off to college or off to war, and share the things for which you are grateful ~ proud of your children and grandchildren, you stop mopping the floor to read Willard, and you send blessings to each OTHER, yes, you do that and make all of us know we’re never alone. Moms and daughters say hello to each other! Your Christmas books have inspiring articles tucked into them, you have favorite quotes, you love Louisa May Alcott, you shared my grandma's pfeffernusse cookies and were all covered in powdered sugar along with me, as we've been since we were little . . . kindred spirits, and just a small taste, our very own, of the infinite goodness there is in the world.